Saturday, January 12, 2008

1-12-08: Rangers 4, Canadiens 1

Here’s your Habs fun fact for the day: this season, the Canadiens have never won a game after trailing at an intermission. Never. Granted, it’s often tough to come from behind, most teams don’t do it with regularity. But you’d figure, for a team that’s doing reasonably well overall, over the course of 44 games, it’d happen at least once just by sheer coincidence. Yet it hasn’t. This is a useful thing to remember if you need to add a sense of drama to the middle of an otherwise uneventful game- if they don’t at least tie it by the time these immediate twenty minutes are up, they’re fucked. It’s like the end of every period is the end of the game.

1. This game actually began well, I think. Not necessarily well for the Habs, but in general, the early action was fleet and eager and seemed full of potential- more so than your average hesitant first period. But then Drury slid easily past a atypically inert Komisarek to open the scoring, and the Habs started blowing their power plays, and Huet was giving up ugly rebounds, and by the time it went to the first break the Rangers’ 2-0 lead looked every bit as insurmountable as the Canadiens’ track record would suggest.

2. Apparently, we have the best PP in the League. Given that the Rangers took penalties in this game like the Flyers on a surly night, and yet the Habs managed only 10 shots, even with lengthy 5-on-3s, this suggests to me that the art of the power play has gone into a sad decline. Yes, Lundqvist looked very big and scary in the net, but pucks are surprisingly indifferent to scare tactics if propelled in the right direction with enough velocity- it would have been worth trying, at least. But who knows, maybe the Habs favor the wuwei approach to a man-advantage.

3. Initially, coming back from my long hiatus, I was pretty happy to see that Gorges seems to have gotten a more regular spot on the lineup- I tend to think that if you’re going to have a guy sit half the time or more, better have it be a veteran who’s used to that role (speaking of which, I’d like to send a little shout-out to Kostopolous). But I can’t make up my mind about this kid: fact is, when he’s playing, I notice him a lot. And that’s not always a good thing. Sometimes it is, sometimes he seems to be fairly ingenious about breaking up what look like otherwise excellent opposition scoring chances; other times he can be conspicuously passive, like he’s having a mildly paralytic stroke mid-shift. Probably he should be given the benefit of the doubt, due to his age and the sometimes slow development trajectory for defensemen, but how long should that forgiving spirit last? And is it really optimal to play him with Bouillon?

4. One advantage of an ugly loss is that I did get to see my boy Jaroslav ‘Trade Bait’ Halak again. I hope, in a way, that Gainey finds a new home for him- in spite of his clunky style and meerkat demeanor, I still think the kid’s got potential beyond the system-filler role he seems destined for here. And he did well, as backup goalies go, in that he kept them from losing any worse than they already were.

5. And I’d certainly be remiss to go without mentioning the Kostitsyns, who were not only the Habs only scorers in this game (okay, plus Markov) but also among the few who don’t have much to be embarrassed about in their performance. And anyway, look at Sergei (or as likes to call him, ‘Siarhei’- is this a transliteration from Cyrillic issue?) after that goal- how could anyone be angry at that face? This is the problem with a team full of kids: they drive you crazy, but then they look at you with their adorable gap-toothed grins and wide trusting eyes, faces alight with the joy of playing the game, and you just can’t stay mad can you? Well, you can, but you kind of feel like an ass about it.

6. Any game where your team gets scored on by a dude named Nigel is automatically a bad game. Nigel is the definitely somewhere on the list of top five Least Hockeyish Male Names.

7. Also, I know it’s famous, but Madison Square Garden really does seem like a shitty place to have a hockey game. The rake of the seats is disgustingly shallow, the boards give off bounces that defy all known laws of physics, and the ice quality makes it often look like an air hockey game with too many moving parts played on a defective table.

Under other circumstances, this might be a panic-inducing loss, but given their recent streak of good play and my general sense of relief and joy at being able to catch the games properly live again, we’ll just call it an aberration and let it go. But ahbabi, you owe us a compensatory performance when NYR comes to our ice in February.


Simonus said...

I believe that "Siarhei" is proper under the transliteration scheme used to bring Belarussian into English whereas "Sergei" is based on the Russian transliteration scheme.

I don't think Halak is trade bait so much as he is the planned platoon/backup mate for Price in 08-09.

E said...

so does that mean that the canadiens are mislabeling their own player? is the pronunciation the same despite the significant apparent differences? does kostitsyn (kastitsyn?) al-asghar care?

and considering halak trade bait is mostly my wishful thinking, gainey not being a trade-prone guy anyway. i suppose that if i like him i should be pleased to have a quality backup for price, but halak's done some impressive things of his own and i'd like to see him in a position where he has a chance to compete for a larger role. if that ain't going to happen here...

Macaskill said...

Here's hoping they put on a better performance when I catch my first live game of the season (and my girlfriend's first live game ever) Feb 3rd.

Good to see you writing again! I, on the otherhand, won't be adding the the Habs related blogsphere for a few months more thanks to school. Though, the Web Design course I'm taking out to help me come back strong in April.

Kaz said...

I could see a scenario where Gainey re-ups Huet for another tour or two, essentially keeping the existing situation. It's worked relatively well, as it allows more time for Price's development while being competitive now. But both Halak's and Danis' contracts are due to expire at the end of this year too, and I doubt both of them will stick around with so much talent in front of them. Gainey will move one or the other.

And hopefully he gets someone to fix that #6 dman hole. Gorges ain't filling it. O'Byrne was even worse, but his upside is tremendous, esp with how small the Habs are. Of course it would help if Carbo played Bouillon-Gorges with something other than the 4th line. It provides energy (esp if Begin came back and played with Kostopolous) but is a little defensively challenged. So maybe Gainey could get some help for that line too. A center who can win faceoffs would help -- Saku's the only one above 50%.

That said, if those are the only problems these Habs have, we're in pretty good shape.